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Opinion & Analysis

Is a “Single-A PGA Tour” needed in the United States?

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The road to the PGA Tour is not an easy one to take. Thousands try, only a handful get in, even fewer of the handful stay. However, with the thousands of professional golfers that don’t get in, they need a place to play.

The Web.com Tour has the been the direct feeder and developmental tour for the PGA Tour since 2013. Since its inception in 1990 under the “Ben Hogan Tour” name, there has been multiple variations that slowly evolved into the highly coveted developmental tour we know today. Top 25 finishers in a year long money race get their PGA Tour cards for next season, and 25 more in the playoffs also receive their cards. However, some pros don’t ever make it this far, and there are some that don’t stay long either.

Enter in the third-tier tours of the PGA Tour, that would be PGA Tour Canada, PGA Tour Latin America, and PGA Tour China. Now, each of these three tours operate very similar to the Web.com and the PGA Tour. The same is true with the Web.com, finish high in the money list for the year, move up to the Web.com the next season. With varying statuses, Q-Schools, tournament cuts, and unreal talent across all levels, this system has proven itself to be the best in who can make it on the PGA Tour. However, if you look at the third-tier tours, you come to realize there is no direct route to them besides Q-School and the occasional Monday qualifier. Which comes to to bear the question, is a fourth tier “PGA Tour” needed?

An easy way to look at this is to look at the baseball farming system. Obviously you have the major leagues, but the minor leagues in regards to the major leagues makes the transition to move up as a pro really obvious. From Rookie Ball, to Single-A, Double-A, and finally to Triple-A, the idea of moving up the farm system to get better as a professional to eventually make it to the major leagues is common sense. However, not everyone moves up, some people stay stagnant, and unfortunately some people move down, not everyone can get what they want.

If baseball can have a farm system, why can’t golf? If you want to get technical, we do have one with the various mini tours around the United States that are smaller than the PGA Tour affiliates, but in the grand scheme of things, they just build up your competition skills with no direct way of moving up, and it also doesn’t help the prize money is not high either, but that’s expected at the developmental level.

What if there was a “Single-A” PGA Tour? What if it could feed into PGA Tour China, PGA Tour Canada, and PGA Latin America? Who would play in it? A lot of what ifs and guesses, but here would be my guess on the scenario.

For the PGA Tour to do this, it would need interest in a fourth level to begin with. Who would that level be? I could see scratch golfers, high level amateurs, or even PGA and other club professionals that didn’t quite have the playing resume to play on the higher tours to play in them. They would develop their skills and see how far it would go.

What do you think? Is another tour needed? Is it necessary for the PGA Tour to have a “farm system”? I’m curious to see your thoughts, GolfWRXers.

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  1. Tiger Noods

    Mar 4, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    This makes no sense on its surface. “Single-A” is a development team, subsidised to some degree, and is not out to sell a lot of tickets generally.

    Any sort of fourth tier wouldn’t be profitable. It already sounds like the regional systems generally in place, and is a tester for getting into the third-tier tours outside the US. If you set aside the NCAA, you are essentially looking at some sort of pseudo-amateur thing, and I think that there’s no need to further organise beyond the regionals that already exist.

    The only interesting thing for me would be the “Team Golf” concept, where cities get “franchises”, and you have some interesting content that way.

  2. Morgan

    Mar 4, 2019 at 9:45 am

    The Great Lakes Tour has some in-roads to the PGA Tour Canada and to final qualifying (I think) for the RBC Canadian Open. There are ways to gain some exemptions from other mini-tours to the web.com tour as well.

    The fact that the PGA-TourC, and PGALTA, and PGA China are running at basically full steam now, has provided the A or AA level. There’s not need for a level below that affiliated with the PGA Tour. There’s no advertising money in that. Without Advertising money, there is no purse. Without a purse there are no pros. We see this with local state and provincial tournaments. There are some pros trying to hack it as playing pros and some pros there for the occasional tournament. The view of those pros is that their entry fee is just padding the pockets of the pros that play more often.

    Once you get below the PGA Tour Canada, you’re looking at club professionals.

    Sorry if this is pessimistic, but I’m a realist and below those three tours are guys that are NEVER going to make the PGA Tour.

  3. Joel Thelen

    Mar 4, 2019 at 8:21 am

    I just got home yesterday from PGA Tour China Q school where I finished 22nd and got some status, I also played PGA Tour Canada in 2015-2016, and I Monday’d into 3 Web.com Tour events in 2018 with a best finish of 14 under par, 34th place in Springfield, MO. So I have definitely thought about this idea! One barrier is that one country can’t have more than 3 tours with world ranking points (PGA, Champions, Web). But what you see if you look at tier 3 is how many Americans are traveling outside the country to try and get on the American owned PGA Tour and playing for very little money. Look at the Aruba Cup (Ryder cup between PGA Tour Canada & Latin America), it’s guys from Texas, California, Florida, Etc. leading both Tours.

    The challenge is that there are only so many spots in the fields. PGA Tour fields are mostly 144 players, and 125 guys each year make the playoffs. So there aren’t many PGA Tour players losing their status every year. The PGA Tour has arranged the system to reduce turnover, and bring in more international fields. Which I understand helps with marketing for sure. As long as the formula is how it is, what would guys in tier 4 play for? A couple spots on tier 3 tours?

    I’m a fan of capitalism, not socialism. But I would love to see the money being paid out more equivalent to the level of play. The PGA Tour purses these days are astounding how big they are, and not one person on the planet believes PGA Tour players are 10x better than Web.com, but they play for 10x the money. Just doing simple math, each tier plays about 40 tournaments per season (a little less on the Web.com). But if all 3 play one week there is ($7,000,000+$700,000+$220,000=$7,920,000 being paid out). I think the money should be closer to

    Tier 1: $5,000,000
    Tier 2: $2,000,000
    Tier 3: $790,000

    While giving PGA Tour players a 30% pay cut, you almost triple Web.com earnings, and over triple Tier 3 earnings. Clearly guys will still want to be on the PGA Tour! But at least the other guys can pay their caddies and start a family. This will only make more kids want to play pro golf and in my opinion, be better for growing the game.

  4. Pro

    Mar 3, 2019 at 10:44 pm

    What needs to change, Chris, is an entire paradigm shift in America’s educational and cultural attitudes towards teenagers.
    Why can’t teenagers just turn Pro in anything they’re good at doing, if that’s what they want? Why do you take the choice away from them? It teaches them personal responsibility to own their choice that they make, if they want to become a Pro as a teenager in high school. Why is there such a stigma with that in the US? Why do people have to go to college before their life gets started?
    If they want to be a Pro before college, let them!

  5. JP

    Mar 3, 2019 at 11:51 am

    If you aren’t going to make it, you aren’t going to make it. There is no need to give golfers of every skill level a tour. What’s next? Grandfathers mini tour for those 65+ year olds that think they should make it on tour, but now lack the physical ability to compete at the PGA tour level?
    .
    Is it at the point we need to award everybody participation trophies for trying?

  6. John

    Mar 3, 2019 at 10:25 am

    No this feels like heading the participation trophy route. Get through q school, Monday qualify, or leave your family and friends and earn it in Canada or the Latin American tour.

  7. The dude

    Mar 3, 2019 at 3:48 am

    This article is cringeworthy….

  8. A. Commoner

    Mar 2, 2019 at 10:06 pm

    How can one write an article like this while ignoring the incredible expansion of intercollegiate athletics over past several decades? These programs might be thought of as a filtering (farm) system whereby those deserving to advance do so. Like it or not, there is a ‘sorting out’ process in operation throughout life in all aspects of life. Many are called; few are chosen. Accept it and live with it.

  9. Phil D. Snuts

    Mar 2, 2019 at 9:54 pm

    Why does it need anything? The cream rises to the top regardless of how many minor leagues a particular sport has.

  10. Hawkeye77

    Mar 2, 2019 at 9:00 pm

    Ask the question but provide absolutely no analysis of how it could even work, and of course it would not. PGA Tour already invested and subsidizing what it thinks is necessary, pretty smart outfit – who does this “4th Tier”? When do they play? Where? WHY?

    Do we need more pro golfers? You aren’t good enough to make it on Tour or make a living as it stands playing golf, why subsidize a lower level of golf? Who isn’t making it that “should”?

    Golf has a “farm system” it’s called mini-Tours and other Tours and there are plenty of opportunities if you are truly talented. If not, no reason to guarantee some standard of living to people that should probably be doing something else. You’ll just have more people chasing that “scrape by” dream at yet another level lower.

  11. ChipNRun

    Mar 2, 2019 at 2:23 pm

    Chris,

    You have an interesting idea but don’t link it to a business model. Some considerations…

    * Where will you get the sponsorships for the tournaments? Can the PGA Tour find enough slack marketing desire among corporations to pay for the tournaments? Consider the MacKenzie Tour (PGA Tour Canada). MacKenzie evidently has 12 events last year. The 2018 top player was Tyler McCumber – 11 events, $139,000 total with three wins. Only one other player crossed the $100,000 mark. So how much of a purse can you guarantee for your Single A tour? And, what does a Single A win count toward a PGA Tour slot?

    * What about regional PGA events? Can up-and-coming non-traditional tour pro hopefuls play in these and score some points toward entering the current mini-tours?

    * You lament the demise of the Q-School, but it’s still here. It just moved down a notch to the mini-gours. PGA Tour Canada has a Q-School tourney, and PGA Tour Latino American has a qualifying tournament.

    * You imply but do not state that lots of people could make the pro tour if the only got “another chance.” Happy Gilmore and Augie Baccus (The Squeeze) are entertaining movie characters, but in real life their chances of breaking through to the PGA Tour are very slim. If they can’t advance through the mini-tours to Web.com, I doubt that a Single A tour would increase their chances that much.

    * Your Single A Tour would be the equivalent of Fantasy Football… except the players to out to a real golf course rather than fuming over the computer screen.

    • Chris Mari

      Mar 2, 2019 at 9:11 pm

      Hi ChipNRun,

      So the original idea for the article is a hypothetical, would I want to see a Single-A PGA Tour in the United States. Yes. Would I want to run it myself with the ideas mentioned in the blog, not really. It’s more of a question to the Golfwrx community of could you see it working or not, and you are asking the right questions above, in which I do appreciate the deep thought in this, thanks for reading!

  12. Q

    Mar 2, 2019 at 10:08 am

    Terrible comparison to baseball.
    Teams don’t get relegated nor promoted in baseball like the players do in golf, like soccer teams do in Europe or around the world. That’s the problem with Major sports in the US, so this argument is backwards.
    The Major sports in US needs to change its system where the leagues have promotion and relegation.
    The golf system is fine. Except for the bit where they removed the Q-school. By elimination Q-school direct entry into the top flight, the PGA made it almost like the other major sports in America, into the Elitist system that it wanted it to be.
    At least golf has its promotion-relegation system. And it has to.

    • Chris Mari

      Mar 2, 2019 at 9:13 pm

      Q,

      I like this point you mentioned above, personally I think the system is fine as well, but I am curious to see would you want to actually see it work or would it just be a complete failure due to your said points? Thanks for reading!

  13. Peter

    Mar 2, 2019 at 9:39 am

    The difference between golf and baseball is that the scouts in the big leagues are evaluating different positions and wide array of specialized talent. It doesn’t work like that in golf. It’s all about your score. When it comes to prize money, Web.com players can barely scrape by a living, let alone people on the smaller tours. Bottom line is that if the PGA thinks they can make money from sponsors and media by putting this together, they’d do it.

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Opinion & Analysis

Opinion: Why all of golf’s majors should pass on 2020

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As a lover of language, the word selections of golf’s major-championship bodies intrigue me. They plan to delay, postpone, and suspend their events until a later date. It won’t be long before Thesaurus.com’s suggestions are invoked, and we prorogue, adjourn, and defer these tournaments until an undetermined, future date. I have a problem, a serious beef, with the notion that these events might be played. I’ll summarize in two arguments.

Other tournaments own those weeks

Look over the planned tour schedules of 2020. There is little to no room (i.e. open weeks) for events to slot in. The Masters, reportedly, is looking at an October date. Will they contact Shriners, Houston, Nine Bridges or ZOZO and ask them to step aside, or will they not even pay that courtesy? The PGA announced the postponement of its flagship event. The USGA is on the verge of announcing … something about the U.S. Open. No doubt the R&A will follow with an update on The Open Championship. Yes, these are major championships, ones that golfers dream of winning, and around which legends build their schedules. This designation does not give them any right to effectively reduce the efforts of organizers, volunteers, staff and fan base of any other event, to an afterthought. Take what fate has tossed your way, 2020 Majors, and leave a hole in the history books.

Humanity

Does a golf tournament hold any higher worth than other human endeavors? It will take something miraculous to conduct a professional golf tournament in the next 12 months. Doing so would require the assurance for all involved (players, rules officials, staff, and volunteers) that conditions are 100 percent safe. Without a vaccine, without a cure, this guarantee cannot be offered. Let’s not forget, that survival does not mean immunity. There is no suggestion that, once cured; safe. Given our social nature, we humans might reinfect each other, again and again. Why run that risk? Golf doesn’t need the bad publicity that “we matter more than your safety does” will bring. The families of tournament participants, workers, and supporters, also don’t need the worry that exposure will bring.

There are many more arguments to make, in support of this recommendation. There is no need to take up any more of your time, to make them. Join me and ask the Augusta National, the LPGA, the PGA of America, the USGA, and the R & A, to take the humane path and adjourn their premier events for a year. Their sacrifice will ensure solidarity with the rest of us.

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19th Hole

Looking back at the extraordinary 2014 WGC-Match Play final: Day vs Dubuisson

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@skysportsgolf

Though we may be missing what was scheduled to be the 2020 WGC-Match Play this week, it seems like as good a time as any to delve into the vault and look back on a classic Match Play final.

Here I’ll take you back to what was one of the most memorable finals in recent history between Jason Day and Victor Dubuisson.

Day (26) had been tipped for greatness throughout his young career and had raced effortlessly to the final in the desert.

Less was known about Dubuisson (23). Despite a win a few months earlier at the Turkish Airlines Open, the Frenchman had appeared previously just three times stateside, failing to make much of an impression.

The Match

Dove Mountain, Arizona was the setting, and by the 13th hole, the match looked done and dusted, with the heavy favorite Day forging himself a 3up lead – before it began to slowly slip away.

Dubuisson took the 13th hole, but despite a birdie at the 15th, the Frenchman was staring down the barrel remaining 2down with two to play. Facing a 12-foot putt to stay alive on 17, Dubuisson held his nerve pouring the putt in the middle to take it to the last.

On the final hole, Dubuisson saved par from the bunker which left Day two putts from 68-feet to wrap up his first WGC title.

The Australian’s first putt settled 10-feet from the cup, and ready to capture the second PGA Tour title of his career, Day’s par attempt was dead-center from the moment the ball left his flat-stick. But he agonizingly failed to hit it, leaving it short and in the jaws and taking us to extra holes.

Back in 2014, as silly as it sounds knowing what we know in 2020, doubts lingered about Day’s ability to close. He had won just once on Tour (2010), had three times been the bridesmaid at majors and at the 2013 Masters held the lead with three holes to play before stumbling home with two fatal bogeys.

With Day losing a 3up lead with just six holes to play and then leaving his 10-foot putt on 18 for victory short, it seemed like the 26-year-old could be hit with another mental scar.

But those fears looked to alleviate themselves when on the first playoff hole his competitor found the base of a cactus.

The final will forever be remembered for the sequence of events that followed.

Dubuisson’s Magic

In any other circumstances, Dubuisson would likely have taken an unplayable. But in a do or die position, the Frenchman summoned up one of the most remarkable up and downs you’re likely to see – knocking the ball from the cactus to 4 feet from the hole and extending the match.

On the very next hole, Dubuisson found trouble again in the form of a bush surrounded by rocks. To do it once was remarkable, to do it twice was borderline ridiculous. But the enigmatic 23-year did just that, swiping at the ball, hitting it to 8-feet, holing the putt as if it was nothing and extending the final.

All Day could do was laugh or cry. He chose the former.

The After-Effect

Day would go on to win the final, birdieing the fifth playoff hole and perhaps changing the course of his career. Tagged with an inability to close before the WGC-Match Play win, this victory was undoubtedly the catalyst in the Australian’s career. Nineteen months after winning his second title on Tour, Day had racked up a further five victories, including his single major title to date at the 2015 PGA Championship.

For Dubuisson, later that year he would shine at the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, winning 2.5 points from three matches and was described by playing partner Graeme McDowell as “Europe’s next superstar”.

As of 2020, that proclamation has failed to materialize, with Dubuisson suffering massively with a perforated eardrum which saw him appear just twice in 2018, and he has since only twice claimed top-10 finishes on the European Tour.

Day didn’t trail once over his final 53 holes at the 2014 event, triumphing in the desert to kick start an incredible run that would see him climb to the summit of the sport.

But ask anyone who watched the 2014 WGC-Match Play final and their first recollection will almost always be the two extraordinary escapes the cool Frenchman gifted us to prove that sometimes there can be glory in defeat.

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Opinion & Analysis

Behind the numbers: A road map for an 18 handicap to get down to a 9

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I wrote an article four years ago for GolfWRX called “The statistical differences between a scratch golfer and a PGA Tour player.” This article became one of the most-viewed features for the site, totaling over 420,000 views to date. I recently consulted with Ben Alberstadt, GolfWRX’s Editor-in-Chief, about pulling together some numbers for handicap levels to which more of us can relate.

You might ask: How do I know the differences between these handicap levels? Well, it is my full-time job to know about the numbers behind the game of golf—at all levels. I have been a student of the game from a statistical standpoint for 30-plus years. I created the strokes gained analysis website, ShotByShot.com, used by thousands of amateur golfers to improve by isolating the strengths and weaknesses of their games. Additionally, I work with PGA Tour players to extract clear answers from the Tour’s overwhelming 650-plus ShotLink stats.

I’ve learned that there is no such thing as an “average” game, no matter the handicap level. We’re all snowflakes and find our own unique way to shoot our number. With that said, ShotByShot.com’s 384,000-plus round database enables us to create a composite of the average golfer at each level. One of the beauties is that our data is robust and smooth across all five major facets so that any golfer’s strengths and weaknesses—and we all have them—stand out clearly by comparison.

The Data We Used  

  • 18 Handicap: I averaged the 3,551 rounds in our database that match the 18 Differential from Slope Adjusted Course Rating. In other words, the Best eight of 20 rounds when Mr. 18   actually played to an 18 handicap.
  • 9 Handicap: Similarly, his Best eight out of 20 using the 5,000 applicable rounds in our database.

As you might guess, the difference between these two in scores is nine strokes. So, if your snowflake matches or is close to Mr. 18’s, simply drop the shots below by facet and voila you are there.

The chart below shows the distribution of the strokes by facet that Mr. 18 needs to save to join Mr. 9.

Driving

Skill in this critical facet of the game is measured by distance and accuracy. But let’s take distance out of the equation by assuming we’re all playing the correct tees for our games and focus on accuracy.

As the chart above indicates, we are looking for 2.5 strokes on, what for a typical golf course, is 14 driving holes. The chart below shows results in the average round for Mr. 18 and Mr. 9. Note that both make at least one Driving Error* per round. Weed out that error and you can be more than halfway home, especially if it is a Penalty Error** that tends to carry a cost of between 1.3 strokes (penalty with drop) and two-plus strokes (stroke and distance).

*No Shot Driving Errors = Balls hit out of play that cannot return to normal play with an advancement shot. 

**Penalty Error = a.  Stroke with drop, or b.  Stroke and distance. 

 

This may be easier said than done, but sometimes the fix is as simple as target and club selection from the tee. Sure, it works to aim away from trouble but try choosing a club that cannot reach the trouble. Most holes that feature trouble off the tee will also be stroke holes, even for Mr. 9. Avoid the error and take double-bogey out of play. This is also a valuable strategy for match play situations.

Next, strive to hit at least one more fairway. The approach accuracy charts below show how many more greens are hit from the fairway vs. rough.

Approach Shots

Here we need to save 3 strokes. This facet involves the greatest number of long game opportunities–on average 17.6 full swing attempts per round. These attempts are generally split 70 percent from the fairway and 30 percent from the rough. Let’s ignore the sand for now as it accounts for approximately only 1 shot every three-plus rounds. Except to say that when you find yourself in a fairway bunker, it is usually a mistake, so take your medicine, get back in play and avoid doubling the pain.

So where to save three strokes? Avoid penalties and that’s at least one stroke. Then hit three more greens in regulation and you’re there–Mr. 18 averages five GIRs vs. Mr. 9’s eight. The key is to improve accuracy.

I recommend working on the distance ranges circled in the charts below and devoting 70 percent of your work to fairway shots. From distances longer than the circled ranges, make smart choices, play within your capabilities and avoid errors and penalties. Easy?! At either handicap level, from long-range you’ll miss more greens than you hit. Knowing this, work toward “good misses” – the fat side of the green, short but in the fairway, etc. Finally, my data supports that hitting the green is far more important than worrying about “proximity to the hole”. But that’s another article.

Chip/Pitch Shots (within 50 yards of the hole)

Here we are looking to save 2 strokes in a less frequently used part of the game–ten shots per round for Mr. 18 vs. eight shots for Mr. 9. Again, please start with avoiding Errors*. My pro and mentor spent hours on the short game with me. First, valuable technique instruction and then competitions @ $1.00 per shot—best lessons ever! His method was to break the shot opportunities into three categories, and this goes for the Sand game as well. Try it—it works.

  • Green light: Good lie, no trouble–try to hole it
  • Yellow light: Difficult but doable–play conservatively and try to be left with an uphill, makeable putt.
  • Red light: Very difficult with looming downside–just get the ball on the green and avoid the error.

Next, practice the type of shots that you face the most and especially those that tend to give you problems. Bottom line, hit more shots closer to the hole and avoid costly errors. While this sounds like annoyingly obvious advice, maybe it will help to consider that Mr. 18 saves 20 percent of these opportunities vs. 32 percent for Mr. 9.

*Short Game Errors:  The shot misses the green AND requires 4 or more strokes to hole out.

 

Sand Shots (within 50 yards of the hole)

Here we are looking to save half a shot in a very small part of the game—just 2 and 1.6 shots per round respectively for Mr. 18 and Mr. 9. I view this an underrated skill that definitely produces more errors per attempt than any other part of the game. When I was learning the game, I was afraid of the gaping bunkers that surrounded and protected ALL of our 18 greens. It wasn’t until I worked hard to gain real confidence from the sand that the greens seemed larger and easier to hit. Again, avoid errors and you’ll solve this portion of the puzzle. Mr. 18 saves 12 percent of his sand opportunities (with 28 percent errors) vs. 21 percent saves for Mr. 9 (15 percent errors).

*Short Game Errors:  The shot misses the green AND requires 4 or more strokes to hole out.

Putting

Putting is 40 percent of the game at all levels and we need to save 1 stroke. EASY, Mr. 18 simply needs to reduce his 3-putts from 2.5 per round to 1.5. Do this by working on distance control from 20 to 50 feet.  Beyond 50 feet think of it as more of an easy chip shot with your putter. You’re doing well if you leave it within 10 percent of the original distance and below the hole. Finally, work on your short putts in the three-to-10-foot ranges. I recommend starting with three feet, then move to four to five feet. If you can get those ranges to Mr. 9’s one-putt numbers, you’re well on your way.

Conclusion

Bottom line, I have laid out where, on average, Mr. 18 needs to improve to make the leap to Mr. 9. If you made it this far, you may be saying, “Why all the focus on errors?” Simple! They are important! Most stat programs ignore them—the PGA Tour certainly does. My studies show that the relative frequency and severity of errors do more determine one’s scoring level than do all the good and average shots played.

Your game will no doubt have different areas of strength and weakness. The key is to accurately identify them so that you can address them appropriately. This article has hopefully given you some ideas about how to do that.

 

For a complete strokes gained analysis of your game, go to: www.ShotByShot.com

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